Several weeks ago there was an Associated Press story about the closing of the newspaper in Waynesville, Mo., a community about the size of Beloit.
With the closing, Waynesville joined more than 1400 other cities and towns across the country to lose a news- paper during the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.
As recently as 2010, the Daily Guide in Waynesville had four full-time news people, along with a page designer and three sales people. According to the AP. the Daily Guide was a family owned newspaper into the late 1980s before it was sold to a series of corporate owners culminating with GateHouse Media, Inc.
The question asked in the AP story did GateHouse stop investing because people were less interested in reading the paper or did people lose interest because of the lack of in- vestment made it less satisfying to read?
Most small newspapers across the country are suffer- ing from declining advertising revenue from both national and local retailers and declining number of subscribers. In this instance, the corporate decision was that no matter how much GateHouse invested in the newspaper given the unforgiving market place, the investment would not have paid off.
After the Daily Guide's last edition on Sept. 7. 2018, edi- tor Natalie Sander said, “It felt like an old friend had died.” “I sat and cried, I really did.”
When a community loses its newspaper, it loses part of its identity. The AP story about Waynesville, quoted Keith Pritchard, local bank CEO and lifelong resident, as saying “Losing a newspaper is like losing the heartbeat of a town.”
Pritchard has scrapbooks of news clippings about his three daughters. He wonders how young families will col- lect such memories. Other residents talk with dismay about church picnics or school plays they might have attended but only to learn through a Facebook posting after the fact.
The AP quoted Bill Slabaugh, another Waynesville resi- dent as saying, “I miss the newspaper, the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee and a bagel or doughnut...and find out what's going on in the community.” Now he talks to friends and “candidly, for the most part, I'm ignorant.”
When a community loses its newspaper, who will become the public's eyes and ears at local government meetings and who will be versed enough about the Kansas Open Meeting Act to know that a motion needs to be made to go into ex- ecutive session. Also, who will know that a governing body can only go into executive session to discuss such things as non-elected personnel, attorney-client privilege consul- tations, trade secrets, future property acquisitions, salary and benefits negotiations and information about students.
If your newspapers shuts its door, who will be there to report when the board of education approves a multi-mil- lion dollar facilities improvement project or the local hospi- tal board approves the building of a new hospital?
And, how many empty pages will there be in your child's or grandchild's scrapbook?